6 February 2018
Commenting on the European Commission's Western Balkans strategy co-chairs Reinhard Bütikofer and Monica Frassoni said:
Greens warmly welcome that there is a renaissance of the EU interests in the development of the Western Balkans. President Junker should be credited with being among the first to focus political attention on this region again in a state of union speech last September.
For about a decade the European institutions have neglected the Western Balkans. It took first the mass migration coming to EU shores through those countries, then the increasingly bold and troublesome meddling of Chinese, Russian, Saudi and Turkish interests in the region to remind European policy makers that succumbing to widespread enlargement fatigue is anything but a strategic approach guided by European values and interests. EU negligence contributed to negative developments that are threatening to make the Western Balkans once again a zone of insecurity and an open festering wound that, if left alone, would endanger also the rest of Europe.
The new approach proposed by the Commission is more than justified but it is still too timid. It will take a major political investment to overturn the negative attitudes that prevail in many European countries vis-a-vis Western Balkans enlargement. On the other hand, development in Turkey and Ukraine over recent years have lent credibility to a policy approach that explicitly puts applicant countries from the Western Balkans in a different box than Turkey and Ukraine. A new policy towards the Western Balkans will have to be corroborated by dedicated funding for Union efforts to facilitate speeding up the accession process.
We are not in a position to guarantee individual applicant countries a date of accession. Countries will have to conform to the Copenhagen criteria to become eligible to accession and every country will have to meet those criteria individually. But at the same time our efforts should be inclusive and comprehensive and aim for including all of the Western Balkan countries in a step-by-step implementation of our headline goal of bringing them into the European family of nations and the EU. European Greens will actively work with our member parties in the Balkans to promote the necessary transformations and reforms.
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